It has become a matter of survival on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, which was frightened by two powerful earthquakes and a deadly tsunami, which claimed more than 1,200 lives according to local media. The more than 330,000 inhabitants of the city of Palu destroyed by the tsunami are hungry and looting shops. The government allows it because of the emergency situation.
Two days after the shock, everything in Palu is lacking: food, drinking water and fuel. Hundreds of residents are tired of waiting for help and are now serving in the supermarkets and at the service stations.
Cookies, chips, gas bottles. In fact, they take everything they encounter. Even TVs are co-opted. It is up for grabs in shops and supermarkets whose doors and windows are often washed away by the power of the meter-high tsunami. And otherwise they have been taken by desperate people. A petrol pump is ‘refuelled’ with bottles and pots and pans.
“They do not help us, we have to eat, we have to have raw materials. We have no other choice,” justifies a plunderer stealing against an AFP reporter. “The stores are closed; the markets are empty. We go from one store to another”, says ‘Eddy’ (33). Police officers often look at the looting, the authorities let it all happen. They report that they are not going to hunt looters. There are more important priorities.
Affected retailers can later receive compensation if they submit an invoice. “We have asked the supermarkets Alfamart and Indomaret to allow this. They have to register everything, it is not a looting,” according to Minister of the Interior, Tjahjo Kumolo in a statement.
During the looting, panic regularly occurs. Not because of fear of the shop owners or the police, but because of aftershocks. At such a moment many looters flee, fearing for their lives, AFP reports. But as soon as it seems safe, they enter the stores again.
In the meantime, the aid is starting to get underway on the island, which, with over 17 million people, has the same number of inhabitants as the Netherlands, but is four times larger in area. For example, mobile kitchens are transferred that can produce 36,000 meals a day. Furthermore, mattresses and blankets arrive. The problem is that it takes a while before the items are distributed to the neediest.
Photos © REUTERS, AP, AFP,